“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Mark 1:17-18 ESV
Transition is not always fun. Some people thrive on it. Not me! I like it when things are running smooth like the gentle hum of the tires rolling down the freshly paved interstate. There is a rhythm that brings comfort. Our staff here at the church is going through a transition. People who served their roles in ministry so well are going on to where God is calling them next. It happens. It happened to me many times before I settled into my assignment to pastor here in Pawnee. Change is part of what we do, but it is not always easy. As I was thinking of my staff who was moving away, I felt compelled to compose an email of gratefulness. When God brought them to my mind during my devotions, I felt an incredible amount of gratefulness to have gotten to do life with them. I reflected on the blessings and saw how God brought them into my life at the right time. God knew what I needed before I did and now that I have gotten past one of the most difficult seasons in life, God now moves them on to the next thing He has for them. But in doing so, He also takes care of me. This is what He brought to my memory in preparing to say goodbye.
God brings relationships in and out of our lives. Some leave wounds; others leave you grateful to have had them in your life. God uses both relationships to mold us into who He is making us to be. Jesus had these types of relationships. Some brought joy, others pain, and for most of his close relationships… both. The Disciples come to mind. They followed Him because He called them. They shared life together with God in the flesh. These close friends as Jesus would call them, had almost instant access to the creator of the earth. The one who created life was doing life with them. Eating, sleeping, telling clean jokes, I am sure. Walking the dusty roads of ministry together. But in the following, it also produced trying times. I am so glad the Bible does not leave these moments out. We see the struggle, and we see the bad days when the disciples were more concerned for themselves than the mission. We see when they wanted to be famous when Jesus wanted them to be simply servants. We see them nagging and looking for Jesus when He wanted to be alone with His Father. Any close relationships we have in our lives will certainly have those moments too. As I reflect on past staff members, I enjoy recalling our fun times together, our celebrations, our camaraderie. We have also had our tears, our unknowns, pain, and conflict. I am thankful God uses all of it to make us better.
That is what relationships are for. They are to make us better, even the difficult ones. As a pastor I have had my share of difficult relationships. The old cliché’, “Sheep bite!” is certainly true. I have my scars, but each one reminds me of how God has made me a better person because of it. I have learned, I have grown, and I have matured into a godly man who has more wisdom now than I did before because not every relationship was a cake walk. I am sure I have been a sheep that has bitten too. I hope whomever I bit is better now too. But sheep also love, and they trust and follow. These are the moments that I cherish. I fondly recall the times of prayer, counseling, and celebrations. I remember the good. I value the conversations. I am grateful for the experience. Scripture teaches us to think on “these things”. These things are better and bigger than the bites.
Take a look at your relationships today. I have lived life long enough to learn that we cannot take them for granted. One day they come to your desk and say they are moving on. One day, we have to say good bye in ways that hurt through tragedy and trials. We cannot control these things. So instead of plowing forward without thought of those you are plowing with, stop. Think about who they are, where they are and what impact they have made in your life. And if you can… write them, call them, text or email and tell them. Thank them for the fun and the failure. Be grateful for the best times and the bites. Then when transition comes however it presents itself, you can move forward with the joy and the pain. Because of both, you are better.